Inaugural Remarks - Governor Sean Parnell
December 6, 2010 - Centennial Hall - Juneau
By The Honorable Sean Parnell
Governor of Alaska
(Text as Prepared)
Thank you, John. Mr. Chief Justice, Lieutenant Governor Treadwell, cabinet members, to Sandy – my wife and best friend, our daughters Grace and Rachel, and to Lieutenant Governor Campbell, thank you for your many years of service to Alaska.
I also welcome Consul General Gao of the People’s Republic of China, Consul General Gerasin of the Russian Federation, and Consul General Sinambela of the Republic of Indonesia. Thank you for coming so far.
Dr. Soboleff – thank you. And Tlingit/Haida elder Ethel Lund – we honor you. Fellow Alaskans, thank you for your resounding vote of trust. Lieutenant Governor Treadwell and I are grateful.
Today, we celebrate Alaska – our people, our land, and our legacy. And, we give thanks for the work ahead, which involves growing our economy; creating paths of opportunity for Alaskans; accessing Alaska’s vast natural resources; protecting the most vulnerable among us; and educating our children well.
We relish this work, and face these challenges with confidence, because we are building on a firm foundation.
Abolitionist Thomas W. Higginson once said, “Great men are rarely isolated mountain peaks; they are the summits of ranges.” Today we give thanks for our own summits and ranges – the men and women of Alaska who work every day to make this state great.
We remain grateful for our state constitution pioneers. We also honor and remember Alaskans we’ve recently lost, including Senator Ted Stevens, Governor Wally Hickel, constitutional convention delegate George Sundborg, statehood champion George Rogers, local law enforcement officers, and our military servicemen and women who have given their lives for our freedom and our future.
So, with thankful hearts, we turn now to that future…
We are Alaska, land of abundant resources and incomparable beauty. We are Alaska, home to a strong and resilient people. And we are Alaska, place of unlimited possibility.
Together, we set our course and, together, we determine the future of the 49th state. To do so, we must understand fully the challenges ahead. We face a federal government bent on expanding its regulatory reach at the cost of freedom and prosperity.
Our message to Washington is clear. This country was founded on, and made great by, the principles of self-rule and self-determination. As Ronald Reagan noted, the federal government was created by the states, not the other way around.
Where the federal government stays within its constitutional framework, we will honor it. Where it attempts to move adversely against Alaska’s interests, we will block it. And, where our national government exceeds its legal authority, we will fight it.
Alaskans are hard working, smart, and we possess something in short supply in Washington: common sense. We know best how to right our economy, how to raise our children, and how to run our schools. So I say to Washington: we can do it.
While we still face challenges, we have successes to point to. Our unemployment rates are improving, and our bond rating is rising. Alaska has faced economic storms before. And we’ve weathered them better than most other states.Why? Because we stand by our principles.
We do what households all around the state are doing and budget responsibly. We unshackle the private sector. We embrace free market principles that lead to growth. We remain true to the principle that Alaskans can create and spend their own wealth better than the government. And as we stand by these principles, Alaska will continue to shine bright among the 50 states.
Our objective is a legacy economy, one that will provide opportunity for this generation and beyond. To do that we will work to fill the pipeline, reduce taxes, build roads to resources, and fuel more private sector jobs. We will be disciplined in our spending and focus on results for you.
A great place to start is our land. For too long, Alaska’s abundant resources have been locked up. We must have access to our own lands. It is time to put Alaska’s resources to work for Alaskans. It is time to provide more affordable energy for our communities, both rural and urban. And it is time to help America end its dependency on foreign resources.
With those goals in mind, we will tap the vast energy potential of our waters through hydroelectric and geothermal projects, like the Susitna River dam project. We will harness our wind and currents for rural power. And, we will unleash trillions of cubic feet of natural gas into a natural gas pipeline.
For years, Alaskans have hoped for a gasline – today it is within reach. It is OUR place in history to have had not one, but two successful open seasons. And, it will be our place in history to seize the moment and get a gasline.
Still, our objective is far more significant than mere economic growth. Our vision is about our people. Because, happiness cannot be measured in dollars.
Today, too many Alaskans live in fear. Too many suffer from domestic violence and sexual assault. Too many Alaskan families know despair and hopelessness. In OUR vision, Alaskans live free of fear, Alaskans live every day with hope and opportunity in view.
Dr. Soboleff has gleaned a lot of wisdom in his 102 years. He has a saying: "Respect People. Respect yourself, too, and other people will respect you."
We embrace the traditional value of respect because every person carries the spark of dignity ignited by our Maker. Embracing respect for ourselves and respecting others empowers us. It frees us from fear so we can act. We’re Alaskans. It’s what we do.
I’m so proud of a group of students at Kotzebue High School, who already exhibit this characteristic of taking action. These young people have been mentored since sixth grade to recognize the warning signs of isolation, bullying, and even potential suicidal tendencies among their peers. They’ve been trained to help, to step forward and prevent a bad situation from getting worse.
These students are engaging, inquisitive, and genuinely concerned about their classmates. We applaud their parents, community, and school leaders for shaping these young Alaskans. These students represent a bright future for Alaska. I know they will make a difference because they’re Alaskans –they act in order to improve the lives of their friends and classmates.
And we will do no less! Achieving economic growth and building strong families requires an unbreakable commitment from every Alaskan to act, and to see Alaska’s challenges as our own. My administration will carry the same spirit: we will not sit idly by. We will fight alongside you, and for you, for a better Alaska. And, that’s a promise.
We will work to ensure that every child has a safe home. And, once our children feel safe, they are free to learn. Our goal is a transformational education for every child; one that prepares them for jobs and life.
When we raise the bar, our kids step up. In fact, all across the state this year, our kids are working to take the extra classes necessary to qualify for the Alaska Performance Scholarships. With hard work and by completing a more challenging curriculum, every Alaska high school student can earn a scholarship.
In our elementary schools, we will end the social promotion of our students from one grade to the next. Instead, we will help them get the skills to move up. We will renew our focus on literacy in the early years. We will not enable complacency and academic under-achievement when it comes to our future.
Our people are our future – the very heart and soul of this Great Land. We see inspiring examples of this truth daily.
For instance, in Anchorage this year, we saw Alaskans literally reach through smoke and flames, lifting the wings of a plane, to try to save those inside. Another Alaskan courageously spent the night on a mountainside tending her friends’ serious injuries after a plane crash. And in Hoonah, two brave Alaskans laid down their lives for the safety of their community.
Extreme cases, perhaps, but these home-town heroes did what many say any other Alaskan would have done in the same situation. Whether bringing food to a sick neighbor, volunteering in our schools, or running desperately needed serum hundreds of miles across the state by dog team, Alaskans have always taken care of each other.
This selflessness, this willingness to act, this is what makes us a Great People living in a Great Land. These traits define Alaskans, and they define the Parnell-Treadwell Administration, as well.
In the days to come, we will tackle the task of growing our economy. Through leadership and action, we will say “no” to federal encroachment and “yes” to unlocking our resources for Alaskans’ benefit. We will roll out a fiscally responsible budget and we will create opportunity for Alaskans.
Lieutenant Governor Treadwell, my Cabinet and I – we serve because we love Alaska. We love our people, our land, and our history. And our vision for Alaska is one of economic opportunity, access to our resources, safety for all Alaskans, and a transformational education for our children.
We do not embark on this journey alone. We lock arms and join hearts with you, our fellow Alaskans, and pursue greatness for Alaska – together. So let me close by renewing the challenge I gave when I first became governor a year and a half ago.
Alaskans, set your hand and face to Alaska’s future. Run with me to take responsibility for it. This is your state, these are your resources. Be bold. Be involved. Make a difference.
After all, we’re Alaskans: It’s what we do.
Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the Great State of Alaska!